July 25, 2022

What Are Virtual Paralegals and How Do I Become One?

By B&SC Blog Team

What Are Virtual Paralegals and How Do I Become One?

The paralegal profession is a popular alternative for people who want to work in the legal field while also making a difference in their communities. As the need for more affordable legal services grows, paralegals will have an easier time obtaining work in a range of specialties. You can take it a step further, though, if you like the idea of working remotely.

A virtual paralegal offers many of the same services but works from a remote location. It might be a home office, or you might maintain a workspace outside the home. Often virtual paralegals work as independent contractors, giving you a chance to run your own business. So, what exactly is a virtual paralegal, and how can you become one?

What Is a Virtual Paralegal?

A virtual paralegal provides administrative legal services from a remote location. They go through all the same training as a paralegal that works for a law office, but they tend to freelance for clients or law firms.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics* (BLS), the paralegal profession is growing at a faster than average rate. The idea of working at a remote location adds even more benefits for this profession.

A virtual paralegal career is ideal for someone looking for scheduling flexibility. Virtual paralegals operate remotely, yet do standard paralegal tasks such as drafting legal documents, submitting paperwork with government agencies, and preparing exhibit binders for trial.

Paralegals offer a wide range of duties to support attorneys in their practices. Virtual paralegals, however, must continuously operate under the supervision of a practicing attorney because they are not attorneys and have not been admitted to the bars of any state.

What Are the Benefits of Being a Virtual Paralegal?

As a paralegal, you would provide the same level of support as an in-house employee but do it from your own office. This arrangement provides both you and your clients with some key benefits.

Lower Overhead

Law practices don’t have to provide the same benefits to an independent contractor such as a virtual paralegal. They don’t have to pay for insurance or provide a workspace. They also don’t have to worry about tax withholdings.

This can put some of the burdens on the virtual paralegal; they have to find and pay for their own health insurance, for instance. The Affordable Care Act makes that not only possible but affordable for most.

They also must handle their own taxes. There are real tax benefits when working as an independent contractor, though. You get credit for managing your own office, for example.

Increasing Work Opportunities

Many law firms and attorneys choose to outsource a variety of duties to save money. Since paralegals can operate as virtual assistants outside the law firm in a freelance or independent capacity, contracting one can be a highly appealing alternative to hiring a full-time paralegal with benefits.


One of the primary reasons virtual paralegals choose this career path is because it gives them flexibility in managing their time. If you’re looking for a way to combine your family and employment commitments, a career as a virtual paralegal may provide you the freedom and flexibility you need.

That flexibility extends to clients, too. Not all lawyers need a full-time paralegal year-round. This gives them scalability because they can bring in a virtual paralegal when they need one.

Pay for Expenses

As a virtual paralegal, you may be able to charge more than a traditional paralegal because you save your clients money on everything from parking spaces to office equipment. You may also be able to bill them for your expenses while acting as their virtual assistant.

Most virtual paralegals negotiate their costs on a contract basis, which means that each new assignment and customer enhances your prospects.

Skills Necessary to be a Virtual Paralegal

A virtual paralegal needs to communicate well and practice active listening. Because you will not be working in an office, you must have good organizational skills and time management.

You will also need sharp attention to detail and effective research abilities. Since virtual paralegals are usually freelance, maintaining clientele will require you to be able to market these abilities, as well.

How to Become a Virtual Paralegal

Working as a virtual paralegal offers some flexibility as far as education. Your journey should start with a degree, though.

Pursue a Degree

Ideally, a virtual paralegal would have some legal education even though technically, no formal education is required. Many undergo the same studies as an in-house paralegal, including earning an associate degree in paralegal studies. It is important to keep in mind that the more education and experience you have, the better your options are. Having an associate degree could allow you to charge your clients more money. It is a competitive job market, too, so attending school for paralegal studies will open more doors.

Another option is to earn a paralegal certificate. Paralegal certificates may be obtained through associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and even non-degree schools. Individuals who finish these programs and receive a certificate of completion may later pursue a degree in paralegal studies. The American Bar Association has granted several paralegal education programs (ABA) approval.

Get Certified

Those who earn a degree and job experience can sit for a certification exam. Certifying organizations offer Paralegal certifications, such as the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) or the National Association for Legal Assistants (NALA).

Paralegals who have passed required examinations and fulfill ongoing requirements may become certified. Some credentials may include CORE or PACE Registered Paralegal, Certified Paralegal, Certified Legal Assistant, or Professional Paralegal. Paralegals may also be required to complete continuing legal education (CLE) to maintain these credentials. Some areas may require you to register with the courts, as well.

Network and Apply for Jobs

You will want some experience under your belt before starting as a virtual paralegal. You also need to work under the supervision of a practicing attorney, so you need to make connections. Virtual paralegal networking opportunities are vast, both in-person and online. For example, you can join professional associations, attend conventions and take advantage of Meetup Groups. There are plenty of opportunities in the digital world, too, and it starts with social media. Utilize LinkedIn to network online with other legal professionals. Ask questions, write posts and get your name out.

Further Your Education

There is always more to learn, too. You can earn continuing education credits to add more padding to your resume. Some states require you to maintain certification or licensure, as well.

If you are interested in the paralegal field, look no further! Find out more about the paralegal studies program available at Bryant & Stratton College today!

*Cited projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth.

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